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Hospitals packed as health care workers hope for more masks

On Wednesday, officials announced a physician at St. David’s HealthCare in Austin tested positive for COVID-19.

DALLAS — As hospitals try to keep up with more patients, health care workers are facing challenges. A shortage of masks and other protective equipment have added to an already complex problem.

“We know that health care workers that are on the front line will be at risk for exposure,” Texas Nurses Association Cindy Zolnierek said. “What doesn’t help is there is also a panic, so we have individuals in the community who want masks and are using masks and perhaps don’t need masks and then that depletes those that are available for those that really need the masks.”

On Wednesday, officials said a physician at St. David’s HealthCare in Austin tested positive for COVID-19. The announcement comes as hospitals work to acquire more protective equipment for their workers.

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“They are most concerned about protecting themselves as well as their families from the virus,” Zolnierek said. “There is a stockpile that is being accessed, however that takes time. I know manufacturing is bumping up their production but that also takes time.”

The concerns about protection comes at a time when hospitals are crowded.

“Hospital traffic in these kinds of situations does increase,” said Stephen Love, president and CEO of the DFW Hospital Council.

Love said they are always prepared in case hospitals reach capacity.

“If you have any situation like this, you’d be remiss if you didn’t have a good contingency plan,” Love said. “You have contingency planning if you have a surge and you actually have to go to something like putting up tents, coordinating with the state governments when they find it appropriate to bring in other agencies like FEMA or other agencies like the defense department.”

RELATED: Live COVID-19 updates: 2 deaths confirmed in North Texas; Dallas waiting on kits for testing

Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the state can also use empty hotels and motels to isolate patients who don’t require critical care at hospitals.

The public can help reduce the strain.

“If you have sniffles, if you have a cough, that doesn’t mean you need to go to the emergency room,” Zolnierek said. “Your best bet is to isolate in your home, and to call your health care provider. But please do not show up in the emergency room, unless you really have an emergency situation where you are unable to breathe.”

Either way, with nearly 100 positive cases in Texas and more on the way, the medical community knows it will take all of us to get through this tough time.

“My message is let’s work together,” Love said. “You know the old African proverb -- ‘It truly takes a village.”

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